There comes a time when your Intact female St Bernard dog is ready to breed. This period is called Heat Cycle or a Season. Since the heat cycle has special physical and behavioral signs, it’s quite useful that you as St Bernard’s owner know a lot about this topic. Not only you will understand better what is going on with your dog but also you will know how to handle your canine friend during her season.
St Bernard dog usually goes into her first heat somewhere between 10 and 18 months of age. It can occur a little bit earlier, at 8 months of age, or even later, at about 24 months of age. The heat cycle repeats usually twice a year and each time lasts for approximately 3-4 weeks. The most common symptoms are swollen vulva, bloody discharge, excessive urination, and some behavioral changes. St Bernard may become nervous, moody, and clingy. Appetite changes are also very common.
When St Bernard Dog Goes Into First Heat?
St Bernard is a giant dog breed so it’s quite normal to go into her first heat a bit later than smaller size dogs. This dog would usually go into the first heat somewhere between 10-18 months of age. Of course, it can occur earlier ( about 10 months of age) but also may not experience a heat cycle before the second birthday.
Heat cycles might be pretty irregular in the first two years, after which they tend to normalize.
If you want to breed your St Bernard, note that mating her during her first cycle is not recommended. It’s the truth that your St Bernard girl is able to have a litter but she is far from able to raise them.
She is simply not ready to be a mother in that young puppy age. Pregnancy can come with a lot of health risks plus your dog might reject puppies. Overall, not a good idea. If you want to breed your dog, wait until she is at least 2 years old.
How Long Do St Bernard Dogs Bleed When In Heat?
Bleeding in St Bernard dogs while in heat doesn’t differ that much compared to other dog breeds. Bleeding may last anywhere between 4 days to 2 weeks.
Bloody discharge, red in color is characteristic of the first phase of a cycle called Proestrus. During that phase, even though her body is getting ready to mate, your St Bernard girl won’t be receptive to males.
Moreover, she could show signs of aggression if they try to mount her. This period may take from just a couple of days to let’s say 10 days.
After Proestrus, your female will go into Estrus, the most fertile period of the heat cycle. The bleeding may continue but the color and amount of discharge will change. Now that discharge is rather scanty and pale, pink or yellow, becomes watery. This is the most fertile phase.
Bleeding during the heat cycle might not leave a big mess ( unless your St Bernard has a very heavy flow) because dogs intensively lick their private parts during this period.
How To Know If My St Bernard Dog is In Heat?
Fortunately, the heat cycle has some very visible signs so you don’t need much effort to spot them.
Every Saint dog goes through 3 main stages – Proestrus, Estrus, and Diestrus.
Proestrus is the initial phase of the heat cycle. Swollen vulva and bloody discharge are the most prominent symptoms. Excessive licking of the genital area and excessive urination are also something that happens often during this period.
Your Saint Bernard girl is not in the mood to hang out with boys, even though her body started to attract them. She may show signs of aggressive behavior toward males.
In this phase, your dog may become a bit skittish, nervous, or develop clingy behavior. She may have reduced appetite and a lack of energy.
The Estrus phase is the most dangerous period, especially if you don’t want to breed your dog.
This is the time when your St Bernard girl becomes receptive to males, her bloody discharge almost disappears ( becomes pale in color and very thin). Once it becomes watery it means that your Saint is in her most fertile phase.
In this period you may notice ”flagging” behavior, your St Bernard girl moves her tail to a side, making herself available to boys.
Note that the Estrus phase is rather a loud period. Your dog might be howling or crying. You shouldn’t worry about this, she is not in pain or anything.
This whole noise serves to call the males from the vicinity and inform them that there is one female ready to breed.
During this phase, your St Bernard may become more needy, seeking more of your attention. She may insist on playing with one particular toy, hiding it all the time. This behavior is completely normal and it will go away in 7-10 days, no worries.
Diestrus is the third phase of the heat cycle. Things slowly get back to normal. Your dog’s vulva is not swollen anymore, there is no discharge, she returns to her usual self.
If you want to know more on how to take care of your St Bernard during heat check our post ”What To Do With My St Bernard in Heat (Care Tips)”
Silent Heat And Absent Heat In St Bernard Dog
Silent heat can happen to your St Bernard. It’s not that common though but there are some autoimmune diseases that can interfere with the heat cycle.
During silent heat, your dog ovulates, but typical signs are missing, cannot be observed. If you suspect that your dog is going through the heat but has no signs of it, you can take her to the vet. The vet will do the vaginal smear and will be able to tell you if your Saint is in the heat or not.
Don’t mix Silent heat with Absent heat. Absent heat means that your dog doesn’t come into heat at all when it should. Different reproductive diseases can be the cause of Absent heat.
This kind of heat abnormality is more characteristic for young females that still have irregular cycles but also for senior Saints that used to have regular heat cycles which suddenly changed.
Your St Bernard may skip the heat cycle due to some medicine, especially if they are hormonal therapy. Poor diet may also trigger skipped heat in dogs.
How Often Do St Bernard Dogs Go Into Heat?
Your St Bernard should go into heat two times a year, but since it’s a giant dog breed, it can occur she goes into heat only one time a year, every 8-10 months.
When Should I Spay My St Bernard Dog?
Unless you plan to breed your Saint, you should spay her to avoid any unwanted pregnancy and litter. At least in the USA, responsible pet ownership involves spaying/neutering dogs that are not used for breeding. There are good reasons for that.
The question is when is the right moment for that kind of procedure. Some vets will suggest you get this procedure done even before St Bernard’s first cycle when she is about 6 or 7 months old.
Others will disagree with this recommendation saying that if the spaying procedure has been done too early, the risk of getting mammary cancer is higher. The best is to seek advice from your vet about the exact time perfect for this procedure.
The spaying procedure has many advantages. You won’t have to think about possible pregnancy and unwanted puppies.
Your St Bernard won’t have to go through all those changes which are characteristic of the heat cycle. Many studies have shown that spayed dogs are not at high risk of getting breast cancer or uterine infections.